I am awoken by a hand on my cheek, swiftly followed by a persistent squeeze of my nose. Ah, the joy of the wakeup call of the four year old: there is nothing else quite like it. And there is a reason for that. Because it is uniquely and teeth grindingly annoying.
Reluctantly I squint at the clock, knowing I am not going to like what I see. The fuzziness of my brain and the weight of my eyelids are telling me in no uncertain terms that this is not a civilised time of the day to be awake. 5.14. Oh, the sodding joy. I contemplate for a moment whether I should try and get E back into his bed for an hour, like I do every time he comes in at this time. This thought process, I believe, comes from a few synapses in my brain that still survive from the time I was a new parent, the time when you had decided those hard and fast rules about behaviour and acceptable actions – such as no child of mine will ever sleep in our bed. But this thought about refusing E entry gets progressively weaker each time I think it, those synapses slowly shrivelling into brain dust as I follow the thought with a simple, defeated action: the lifting of the duvet.
I sigh as he wriggles in, and waste a few atoms of oxygen and energy by asking him to lay still and not talk. It might just be possible, I muse groggily, to close my eyes and go right back to sleep at any mom… a nose in my ear interrupts my patently ridiculous fantasy about further slumber. “Look, mummy, my nose fits in your ear,” he informs me gleefully. Oh good. That is just the sort of game I wish to play in what childless people refer to as the middle of the night.
“Go. To. Sleep.”
There is stillness in the bedroom. I unclench my teeth and pull the duvet up under my chin, moments before it is ripped away and I am left, duvet-less from the waist up and already feeling the cold.
“Stop it, please, or you will have to get out,” I hiss as I reinstate the duvet.
“I don’t want the duvet,” he moans.
“Listen…” I start to speak in order to point out the fact that there is a perfectly good bed in his room that would be delighted to accommodate him in the bloody nude with all the windows open if he so wishes, but I fear keeping my mouth open may well let forth a torrent of unstoppable swearing, or sobbing, so I stop. I am so tired. There have been far too many five ‘o’ clock starts in this household – we’re like honorary bloody milkman but with less whistling. I am not even going to look at the clock again, it’s too depressing. I look at the clock. 5.18am. Fuck, that’s depressing.
I feel tugging at the duvet so I hold on to it tight to avoid another exposure to the elements, my knuckles whitening under the strain. I start to feel like I am afraid that the bed will tip up and throw me out, which actually does not seem such a bad idea all things considered.
Icy cold feet are placed on my thighs. I grit my teeth. Just ignore them, I instruct myself. They slide up to my hips. Don’t say anything, I plead to the bit in my head that is already instructing my lungs to fill with air in anticipation. Then the feet are under my pyjama top and on my waist.
“Stop it right now. Or you will be out of the bed.” I say sternly into the darkness.
Two cold feet reluctantly disappear, to be replaced by tapping fingers. That is it.
I pick him up and put him on the carpet, causing a tsunami of wailing. But he is face down, so the carpet takes the brunt of it and I turn over and shut my eyes. There is about as much chance of me now falling asleep as there is of spontaneously apologising, but I refuse to get up and start my day at twenty past bloody five.
The wailing continues, in that ‘I am not in the least bit upset now but I need to make the point that I am, all things considered, rather miffed’ kind of way that only small children can really carry off with any aplomb. I am happy to regain some bed space and be lulled by my son’s rhythmic, monotone cries. At some point, they stop and I hear him stand up.
Well blow me down with Spiderman pyjamas. Has inhaling all that carpet dust sent him doolally?
Under strict guidelines, I let him back into bed and he lies there, still and quiet. I barely dare breathe in case I break the spell.
I start to drift off, the warm duvet cocooning my descent into sleep, slowly… I am suddenly aware of E’s face right next to mine. Then his nose is touching my cheek, followed my his forehead against my temple. He applies a little pressure so I subtly move my head to get some space. I do not want to talk or acknowledge him, as this would scatter the last vestiges of sleep that are floating round my head. But at the point at which my neck is almost breaking from the odd angle I am forced to adopt, I decide enough is enough.
“RIGHT. THAT IS IT. I AM CALLING SANTA.” I may have made myself easier to hear at this point. Easy enough that next door may have also heard. But I was not shouting. God no. I am not a mother who shouts, I am far too together to be riled by a four year old.
There is a second of silence as the enormity of the threat is processed by E.
“No, mummy!” he wails in panic.
“WHERE IS MY PHONE?” I sit up.
“I won’t do it again,” he says, lying down and clamping his eyes shut.
I lie back down. And that, right there, is the magic of Christmas.
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